After winning high praise for her memoir (The Hacienda, 1998), novelist St. Aubin de Ter†n (Nocturne, 1993, etc.) turns to Italian history and the Garibaldi years to create this subtle, endearing fantasy in which a common soldier transforms himself into a man of means and builds a dream palace on the Umbrian countryside—all for the sake of love. The transformation begins with a nasty trick, a mock execution of the young freedom fighter by Papal forces, who then lead him back to jail and his cellmate, Colonel Vitelli, from whom the stone carver’s apprentice absorbs the manners and learning of the upper classes like a sponge. By the time of the pair’s liberation, the youth is so far removed from his peasant origins that he gives himself a new name—after first impersonating Vitelli long enough to spare the colonel’s life. But the makeover is far more than just a new name, Gabriele del Campo, and a new manner: in prison Gabriele built a palace, room by room, in his mind, both as a bulwark against despair and as proof of his devotion to Donna Donatella, the landowner’s daughter he’d glimpsed but once while doing his stonework in her family’s chapel. Taking to Venice’s damp streets and murky ways, where he can perfect his guise as a gentleman, Gabriele starts his mission. Gambling with a hand made sure by the knowledge that it is in the service of pure love brings him wealth beyond measure and the ability to survive even the most dreaded gambling den in the city—where losers end up sleeping with the fish. Then he returns to Umbria to begin construction of his dream, but as years pass and there is no sign of his beloved, he falls into doubt and despair, until the return of his mentor Vitelli renews his faith. Exquisite in its least details, enchanting in its larger vision of love’s labor: a rare jewel of a fable that both engages the senses and tugs at the heart.